Right before I came to LA, I got an email that my estranged uncle Richard died. Richard had been living alone in a ranch house in Sinaloa for the past 25 years. I was the only one in the family who still listened to him rant about the US government on the phone, and for that, I’d apparently been left with his life savings of $6,000. Richard died all alone in Mazatlán, laying on the carpet of his fully carpeted ranch house, sinking into a puddle of his own shit, while his cats began to eat his cheeks.
“How soon can I get the money?” I responded back to the lawyer’s email.
I was en route from JFK to LAX for a vaguely planned trip to “make connections” in the “creative industries.” When I landed, I realized two things. One, I’d forgotten my night guard, so I’d probably grind down a millimeter of back molars each night until I got a new one. And two, in New York, you only have to be young, whereas in LA you have to be young AND hot, so I’d need to find a new niche.
I took an Uber directly to Gracias Madre, where I waited outside for 45 minutes even though I’d made an eager reservation weeks ago. Everyone appeared to be wearing the same variation of a black satin romper. One cluster of satin rompers took a group photo while waiting for valet. In the flash of the camera I noticed everyone’s skin had the same glossier sheen. Dewey but not oily, a fine balance between matte and shine.
In my own way, I was already shining too: I didn't want to waste any packing space with clothes I’d barely use in LA, so I wore all my cold-weather gear on the plane: long sleeve shirt, denim jacket, hoodie, fleece-lined sweatshirt, light parka and puffer coat. Sweat rolled down my face as the host led me inside. Sweat pooled into the armpits of my waffle knit shirt. Sweat made a swamp in my underwear and trickled down my legs.
With my backpack on and Nike carry-on strapped across my chest, I rolled my monogrammed LL Bean suitcase past tables in the outdoor garden area, noticing how all the men had their own matching ensemble. The same white sneakers, dark jeans and black top. Simple, but expensive, ironed and unblemished. There wasn’t a scratch or mark on any of their sneakers except the one I accidentally rolled my suitcase over.
Once seated, I peeled off five layers and refreshed my email to see if the lawyer responded. I wondered what fraction of a new face the $6,000 would cover. One quadrant? Half a nostril? I wanted to go to whoever did Tana Mongeau’s plastic surgery, and that couldn’t be cheap.
No update from the lawyer, but I did have three new emails. The first was from Jeff,
Just letting you know that I plan to return to in-person therapy starting next Monday. Let me know if/when you'd like to schedule something. I hope all is well with you.
Thanks for letting me know. I’m actually in LA indefinitely now. I’m making connections in creative industries, and who knows how long it will take until these connections have been forged.
And you know how much I dislike our virtual sessions, so I’m not open to doing that again. I guess you could say, I’m setting a ~boundary~. It’s not you, exactly, it’s the lag on your computer, which makes me feel like you’re not really hearing what I’m saying. Or, you’re hearing what I’m saying but you’re not receiving it.
Anyway, hope all is well with you too,
The next email was from my mom.
Some mail came for you, where should I send it? Also, pls watch the latest John Oliver episode. I love him. I am in love with John Oliver. Seriously. The episode is on sex work, and I’m all for decriminalization now. Down with FOSTA. I think your Dad is jealous of how much I love John Oliver.
I’m in LA. No address yet. Making Connections. Creative industries. Down with FOSTA.
The last email was from the U.S. Department of Education.
Your current federal student loan flexibilities have been extended. The current 0% student loan interest rate and payment pause on federal student loans owned by the Department of Education will now continue through May 1, 2022.
Visit StudentAid.gov/coronavirus regularly for the latest information on these flexibilities and when they are scheduled to end.
Dear U.S. Department of Education,
Delete my number.
Even though my loans were newly flexible, I had a 6k windfall coming my way, and my mom was a major ally, I still felt as if there was something missing. I looked at the menu and the next time a dazzling server came over, I ordered the mushroom fajitas $26 arugula salad $17 passionfruit mocktail $11.
I wasn’t sure what to do with myself once my food had arrived. Unusually, I didn’t want to stare at my phone for the whole meal, but I also didn’t want to be so obvious in my people-watching. I ended up staring at my phone for the whole meal, but softened my gaze to focus on the conversations around me. I wrote down the snippets I gathered in my notes app..
“Meeting with Lionsgate didn’t go as planned.”
“I posted it, but to my close friends story”
“Then he said that he was in Santa Monica but must have forgotten I’m shared on his location, and I saw he was actually in Laurel Canyon???”
“The wedding was cute but there was a cash bar”
“I don’t know but she looks really sweaty”
Later that night, after 20 minutes of trying to get the key to work at the Airbnb, I saw that what was advertised as a luxury studio was in reality a water stained mattress on the floor. There were tufts of blonde wispy hair in each corner of the apartment. There was uncooked pasta strewn across the countertop, a leaky faucet in the bathroom, and a photo of Aileen Wuornos framed above the mattress.
Determined to create a homey vibe, I turned on the stovetop, swept up all the uncooked pasta into my hand and dropped it into the slowly heating water. I lugged my bags into a pile and started to unpack.
Almost immediately, I noticed some strange items I didn’t recognize in my suitcase. If this LL Bean carryall spinner, extra large in the shade collegiate blue didn’t have my initials sewn into the front, or a tag clearly stating my old New York address, I would have thought I’d grabbed the wrong luggage at the airport.
Tentatively, I pulled out a brand-new black V-neck Comme des Garçons shirt. There were jeans underneath, in my size. I held them in my trembling hands. I didn’t pack these. I wasn’t sure what was going on. Underneath the jeans, shining like the Golden Idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark, was a brand-new pair of white sneakers. The uniform of LA Man, fallen directly into my lap. I was LA man, and LA man was me.
I slipped into the jeans, threw the T shirt over my head, tied the sneakers with the delicate intentionality of LA Man. Who is he? Staff photographer for Architectural Digest? Tour manager for the hottest teen ingénue? Influencer? Brand Advisor? Photo retoucher? Manager? Executive? Creative capitalist?
A noise from outside snapped me back to reality. A light rain, slowly picking up pace. I grabbed the keys and ran onto the street. What started as a light drizzle had become a pouring, lashing rain. It felt like LA Man’s baptism, like the last scene of a movie, like an HBO miniseries finale.
I looked up at the sky and directly into the camera.
Lily Lady is a writer and artist from New York. Their latest book of poetry and photography, 'quickie' is now available through Dream Boy Book Club.